Host Jason Grill shared, “Jeff and Eric have built an innovative company where success has been built through taking a long-term approach, building personal relationships and focusing on real results. Fascinating entrepreneurs and journey!”
Learn more about Complete Legal, Jeff and Eric’s entrepreneurial journey, what they learned along the way and key takeaways, plus so much more by clicking the link below.
You can also listen to the full podcast on Apple Podcasts here.
Eric and Jeff have been guests on several other podcasts:
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Jason Grill: Hey, everybody. Welcome to the Grill Nation Show with Jason Grill. Thanks for joining us today. If you’re listening on podcasts on Apple, Spotify, Google, or Stitcher, also, we’re up on my social media on Twitter and Facebook as well as LinkedIn right now. I’ll share that again as we go with the show today. If you’re watching us on YouTube, we greatly appreciate it as well. As always, you can connect with me on social media. I am @jasongrill on Twitter @grill Nation Show. Also on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn @jasongrill.
Thanks for joining us today for another episode of the Grill Nation Show with Jason Grill. Today, we are going to be talking to the co-founders and co-owners of Complete Legal. before we get to them, I want to talk to Sayard Parrish from Landmark National Bank. They are a collaborator with the show. Their website is banklandmark.com. Sayard, welcome to the show. How are you today?
Sayard Parrish: I’m doing great. How are you, Jason?
Jason: It’s good. I haven’t seen you in quite a while. What’s new?
Sayard: It has been a while. Just life is going at a rapid speed, it seems like these days. Business is good and lots of busyness.
Jason: Oh, wow. Tell me about it. We were just talking about that before we jumped on here. It’s been pretty crazy. You’re obviously getting excited for summer here, but the bank is just so busy. What do you have to update about some of the stuff happening at the bank? Are there any updates we need to be aware of as far as what’s happening at Landmark National Bank or with any hot topics that are arising right now in your world?
Sayard: Sure, yes, I think it’s an interesting time for us and many of our clients. We just recently, a few weeks back, had a client success series event, which is something we do periodically just with topics that come across our desk in our conversations with our clients. We held an event a few weeks back just talking about that very thing. What are the hot topics that you should be thinking about as a business owner?
It was geared towards what are those C-suite HR, COO, IT marketing topics that we’re hearing frequently. If I had to pick two that we covered, it’s probably the war on talent, just trying to retain folks, attract folks, having enough people to fulfill the jobs that you have and the work that you have to do. Then also just the pressure of the rising interest rates and inflation. That’s probably one of the bigger topics lately.
Jason: Have they been rising more since probably the last time I had you on the show?
Sayard: Yes. [laughs] We’ve seen the Fed increase the prime rate up 75 basis points already this year. They’re projecting many more throughout the end of the year. We could see that even rise another 100, maybe even 200 basis points. We haven’t been in that environment for quite some time, so it’s definitely causing folks to just relook at things they’re considering and maybe move quicker now to take advantage of breaks before they go up further.
Jason: That’s cool. I know you guys do a lot of events like that, and it’s always nice to have updates on what’s the hot topics going on right now and what we should be looking out for. I know you guys do a really good job of communicating that to not only your clients but also to the community. Congrats to you on all that work. I need to connect with Jeff again, too, to Jeff Phillips, because I need to use my Audible credits that I’ve been paying for for years. Let’s see if there’s any books I should read. I know you guys have a lot of programs –
Sayard: We do have the book club and I can’t think of what the book is this month, but definitely can get you that info.
Jason: Very cool. Sayard Parrish, Vice President at Landmark National Bank, is with us. Let’s talk about our guests today that we’re going to have on the show. Eric Kelting and Jeff Dreiling, who are the co-owners of Complete Legal. I’ll put their website here up on the screen in a second. Give us a little bit of a background about them and we’ll dive deeper with them as well.
Sayard: Sure. Met them a number of years ago as they had started their business several years prior but just had hit a growth point in their business and was able to help them continue to do that. Since then, they’ve been friends and clients of the bank and we just are thrilled for their success and how they’ve grown such a strong company. They definitely are very mindful about the culture that they’re creating within their company as well as just being good stewards to their clients.
Jason: That’s great. Great. Let’s bring them on. Jeff Dreiling and Eric Kelting from Complete Legal. Their website is completelegal.us. That’s completelegal.us. I’ll put that up on the screen. Welcome to the show, guys. How are you?
Eric Kelting: Thank you. Great. Thank you for having us.
Jeff Dreiling: Thank you for having us.
Jason: Let’s just get a background of you all. I know on your website you have a really cool question and answer with you on your personal pages, but tell us a little bit about yourself. We’ll start with Eric. Just give us a general viewpoint of your background.
Eric: Yes, absolutely. I graduated from KU and took a job with the local Kansas City Bar Association. graduated with an advertising degree, but I spent my entire career in the legal space, which was unforeseen coming out of college. Took a job with the local bar and there I met Jeff and some other folks that were in this weird thing called litigation support. I didn’t know what they did. I just know that there were a lot of them in Kansas City at the time and they were all heavily involved in the bar association trying to reach attorneys in Kansas City.
I was very intrigued by the industry, intrigued by the culture at the time, and then jumped in and honestly never looked back. Jeff and I worked together for about eight years. We set out our non-competes. We both stayed in legal. I worked for a company called LexisNexis in this space and we launched Complete Legal about seven and a half years later.
Jason: That’s cool. I’ve heard of LexisNexis as a lawyer, but I got all those CLEs coming up, guys, that I keep my law license in Missouri and Kansas and do a little bit here and there. Now is the time where I have to rush to figure out how I can get those CLEs. Man, LexisNexis, I had a lot of times of that during the law school days. anyways, very good, Eric. I enjoy your background images. Those are cool.
Eric: Thank you.
Jason: I need to find out where you got those. Jeff Dreiling is also with this, also a co-founder of Complete Legal. Jeff, introduce yourself if you would.
Jeff: Yes. I guess background-wise, I also graduated from the University of Kansas. I’m a few years older than Eric. I bounced around from a few jobs when I got out of college like most people trying to figure it out, from a weird confluence of interests, and computers and IT and sales were my two skills. Back in that day, those weren’t all that valuable necessarily. I bounced around between those two jobs until I finally got a job in this wild litigation support catch-all industry. It was in 2001.
At that time, the industry was basically like, I describe it as like a Kinko’s, your local Kinko store on steroids. There’s just big rooms of copy machines. I was one of the guys that would push boxes up and down the street. I did it for a living and I loved it because I wasn’t sitting behind a cubicle and I was out meeting people and attorneys were interesting to me and they always had something to say.
I did that for a year and a half and then I realized that I was pushing boxes for a living with a college degree and I was a low man on a totem pole and maybe I needed to get my stuff together a little bit and figure out how to make something myself. Just about that same time, electronic discovery and legal was becoming a buzzword of how do we handle emails and things like that.
My background, luckily, just fit perfectly with my interests and the needs of the business. I chose to go really deep, really fast in the eDiscovery and use that to catapult myself to where I was able to launch this company with Eric eventually.
Jason: Let’s skip to that. What is actually is eDiscovery?
Jeff: That’s a good question.
Jason: I should know this, but it’s obviously probably changed a lot over the years.
Jeff: Yes. I like to keep things really simple because I’m not all that smart. There’s two types of discovery. There’s things that are kept in paper format and stored in paper format. Then in the course of a litigation, you have to exchange that with your opposing counsel. That would be non-electronic or non-eDiscovery information, like a memo or a handwritten note.
Anything that you create on a computer, whether it be an email or text message, or quite frankly if you have a smart light bulb and you turn the switch on with your light bulb, you’re creating potential electronically discoverable evidence. eDiscovery, electronic discovery, electronically stored information. It’s all the catch-all for the same thing, which is all the non-physical data that might need to be exchanged in the lawsuit, data that is created and stored electronically.
Jason: Interesting stuff, I want to kind of dive into kind of your company and you mentioned you work together at different times, what drove you to start a business and why did you decide to do that?
Eric: We always joke that we came to work every day in the same physical office but I worked for three different companies and Jeff worked for a fourth since he was there a few years before me and I think just through mergers and acquisitions, we had a rotating door of CEOs, I think we had six CEOs in six years, and it was kind of chaotic, right, our private equity has been a part of our space since the mid-2000s, when eDiscovery really started to take off and it was really cool experience.
I mean, we stayed put, but got to see a lot of different companies and cultures and styles of management and really got to understand what it’s like to work for private equity and what they’re interested in, but it was a little chaotic. The last merger, I think year six, year seven, somewhere in there was pretty chaotic. We had two companies that kind of smashed this together, Jeff and I were in national director roles traveling the country.
We both had small children and it just was unfulfilling at that point, without going into the weeds of kind of what what the company was going through at the time and we left, we honestly didn’t leave thinking we were going to start our own company, but we both ended up in software sales, and we were very unfulfilled, and we got together, I don’t know, maybe six months after our departure, separately. We were kind of licking our wounds and trying to figure out what we wanted to do next.
Honestly, we just started talking about what if we did it our way, what if we did it in Kansas City and started going through some of the lessons that we had learned from the previous couple of years of experience, especially that last year, a year and a half was a lot of experience? We started talking through and I think what mid 2014 on what it might look like.
Jason: Jeff, take us through that process as well. Like what the learnings were in what you wanted to change. I think that’s–
Jeff: Yes, I think that’s literally what drove us. I think Eric and I both have entrepreneurial spirits and we’re both very willing to take on risk when it makes sense and those things are lined up and I think what really formed the business or what drove us over the ledge, to speak, is that, for the last two years that we worked together for private equity, we knew that we were slowly destroying what we built based off the orders we were given, and we knew it wasn’t going to work but we still executed hoping that these people were smarter than us and knew better than us. Quite frankly, that is why we left is because you can only watch what you’ve built get torn down for long, and we had every motivation to come back and say, look, we’re going to focus on the employees first.
If we focus on our employees, they will take care of our customers and our customers will take care of us. We’ve never lost that paradigm, especially during the early days of COVID, when everybody was scared. That was probably the number one thing, is that we watched many good people get burned out and used up by this industry that we wanted to attract and keep the good people that we’d worked with in the past that wanted to come with us but we also wanted to bring new people into this and show them it could be done a different way. A way that respected people’s need to have family time and time away from work and boundaries and at the same time respected that when our clients called us they were looking to be able to have that quality time with their families and outside of work. We needed to take on the responsibilities so they didn’t have to worry. I would say those were the kind of the founding principles of Kansas City.
The other thing of Complete Legal in Kansas City and the other thing is that we used to work for huge companies that had clients that were Am Law 200, which is the 200 largest law firms in the country and Fortune 500, which is the 500 largest corporations in the country as customers and we have learned all of our skills working for those people and then the vast majority of attorneys, especially in Kansas City don’t work for a big law firm and they don’t work for a big corporate legal department.
They’re solo and small firms, and that entire market had been ignored by the eDiscovery industry because private equity, it’s a lot easier to sell one huge deal than 100 small deals, right? As a small business, we identified that crack in the sidewalk and we built our business off the solo and small firms and then started moving up to medium-sized firms. I would say those were the most important things in founding Complete Legal.
Jason: That’s awesome. Wow, that’s great advice, great information, and great takeaways. Were with the co-founders of Complete Legal. You work with Sayard and Jeff and others at Landmark Bank, what does that relationship been like?
Eric: That’s been great. We actually met Sayard and Jeff at a previous bank years ago. At the time, we were buying out our third partner, we were just a couple of years into the business, we’d launched a second business with his partner and we were honestly just interviewing banks and trying to establish a good banking relationship and we were referred to Sayard and Jeff I think specifically by one of our clients in the legal space who had really good things to say about both of them. I can tell you, we’ve met with a lot of bankers then and then over the years, and there’s something about Jeff and Sayard that’s just different.
They’re small business minded, they’re Kansas City focused. They believe in entrepreneurs and really just, I think, took down some of the fears of engaging with the bank and trying to understand what a bank is trying to get out when they’re interviewing you, and going through your balance sheets and P&Ls and things like that, and really just spoke to us like humans, like maybe you don’t know everything about banking, and just translated things the way we can understand them and educated us along the way.
Jason: Well, that’s positive, Sayard.
Sayard: I didn’t even pay him to say that.
Jason: Sayard, what do you have to say about these two guys?
Sayard: I think that we try to have the same focus with our clients that they have with theirs, where we do, you started as a small business owner, right, before you grow along the way and we always want to try to support those entrepreneurs as they’re getting started but also when you kind of grow into the next step, and continue to be there for you. I think that’s the same thing that that Eric and Jeff do.
Jason: Eric and Jeff, talk to me about your process. What does it look like? How does an attorney or a group connect with you and where does it start as far as working with you all, kind of the basic business process that people can expect when they work with you, or your team?
Jeff: Yes, the basic business process for us is pretty simple and it’s different than a lot of our competitors, but when a client engages with us, whether that be because we’ve identified them as somebody that could likely use our services, or if they have a specific need and they’ve been referred to us, the first thing we’re going to do is try and establish exactly why they’ve engaged with us. Tell us about the case that you have on your mind and then from that moment forward, our solutions team is going to be working with however that case comes in, we’re going to start working to try and identify the key milestones that we need to help them within that case. Is there a time restriction that you’re worried about?
Is there a huge amount of data and you don’t know how in the world you’re ever going to be able to look at all of it and consider it in the course of this legal action? Is there budgetary concerns, and you’ve gotten a bid from a big national competitor of ours that scared you? That’s a lot of times what it is. But we identify what we’re there, and we start building a customized solution that will meet all the needs, but none they don’t need at the lowest possible price. I know that sounds like a boilerplate like sales-y type thing, but literally what we do, is we have a toolbox full of a bunch of different software that anybody can buy if they have the resources and the desire. We’ve described it like a bar.
If you’re in downtown Kansas City, especially like in the Power & Light District, let’s say you’ve got seven or eight bars within a thirty second walk and if you’d like to drink Tito’s soda with a lime like I do, you can get that about any bar in America. Why is it that someone’s going to choose to come to the Complete Legal bar to order their drink versus go to another bar? That’s all in the process of how we get there, and how you feel when you leave after having that drink.
Jason: What do they say to that, Eric? Like, why did they choose you guys? What’s the secret sauce?
Eric: Yes, customer service project management, they really, like Jeff said, we’re our industry is full of the same software that everyone else is using, somebody like the bar analogy, or the plumber analogy, where we’ve got a lot of the same tools in our toolbox. Cloud computing has absolutely leveled the playing field. In the old days, you had to– even when Complete Legal first started, we had 10s of 1000s of dollars in capital expense just in servers for processing power and to be able to get through that data that clients give us. With AWS and Azure and other cloud services, I mean, the playing field’s level. I mean, really, it comes down to service and project management. Our employees truly do care about our clients. We see our clients regularly, whether it be at different association or industry receptions or hosting happy hours, luncheons and things like that, but a lot of us have become friends with our clients, and so you want to take care of these folks because they’re the ones that are taking care of us. It really like Jeff said, it’s that simple, it’s service and project management.
Jason: Is there any type of specific types of law that y’all work in or is it across the board?
Jeff: It’s largely across the board, but any type of litigation is going to be a potential fit for us, but usually it’s like a business litigation, two companies suing each other, a lot of employment litigations, construction products, liability, those types of things where they’re really the details are going to be in an electronic place and that the budget or the amount at stake is going to warrant the expenses of going through an investigation and then building a database and a full review.
Eric: Yes, a lot of data, a lot of documents, document intensive litigation. I always tell people the average Joe needs a lawyer for divorce, family law, maybe a traffic ticket. Maybe their kiddo gets in trouble, they need a simple criminal lawyer. We don’t really do a lot of that. We do a little bit here and there, but we do, like Jeff said, a lot of the behind the scenes stuff, a lot of commercial and litigation, federal inquiries and things like that.
Jason: What’s the process been like since 2014 as far as the paper versus the technology and law? Because I know a lot of older lawyers that are in their 60s and 70s and 80s, and I’m curious if they’re all like completely transitioned now. I think they are, but are they not? Are we moving towards more of that? Would you say that the court allows it?
Eric: You’d be surprised. One of the founding principles of Complete Legal was that companies in our space, especially as they got acquired by private equity, didn’t want to offer paper services anymore. They’re not high margins, you have to be geographically very close to your clients, obviously if you’re printing or scanning documents and or making those trial boards. but so in the early days, we looked around and said, no one else in Kansas City wants to perform this service, yet there’s still a need with the legal community here in Kansas City.
It’s not sexy and it’s not like Jeff said pushing boxes around downtown Kansas City isn’t necessarily glamorous, but again focusing on the services that clients need, we felt like it was something that we needed to do. Now, with that said, the industry as a whole and definitely Complete Legal, since our inception paper has become diluted each and every year. There are just less documents and discovery that are in hard copy forms. We still do some mass scanning of old corporate records, but for the most part, most of the relevant documents are email and Office and Excel and Word documents and things like that, and so with the growth of our–
Jason: [crosstalk] I’m just thinking back to my days as a young clerk at…or one of these firms, these bigger firms, and having to go into the parking garage in the basement and have like thousands and they’re required to keep the documents for 10 years. I think maybe it’s still 10 years, I don’t know, five years, but anyways, I just remember just looking through all the documents nonstop. It’s just crazy to think that how we used to do things…library and everything.
Eric: We do a little bit of it, but you’d be amazed, we still print 4 to 5 million pages a year. Even though we’re not printing as much discovery, and most just about everything is digital and even when it comes time for trial courtrooms are wired and people are projecting exhibits, but we’re still printing a lot of exhibits. You still have those hard copies that get passed around the courtroom to the judge, to the jury, to opposing counsel, things like that. Four million pages a year, 4 to 5 million pages is still just mind boggling to me every time I look at our clip counts on a given year.
Jason: One of the things I noticed on your website, Eric Kelting and Jeff Dreiling also joined by Sayard Parrish from Landmark National Bank, the website again is completelegal.us is about growth. You mentioned, and part of your values, obviously you talk about trust and execution, teamwork and fulfillment, but one is growth and never stop evolving. Take me through that, both from a value standpoint and also for a company standpoint as far as how you’ve grown your business with whether it’s team members or putting more resources into it.
Jeff: Yes, that’s exact. I think growth is really the one thing that’s not optional here at Complete Legal. Before it was in Vogue in 2014, we had a no vacation, no sick time policy work from home. If you get your job done, you get your job done, we’d tell people–
Jason: You said 2014, Jeff?
Jeff: 2014, we started our business without philosophy because we knew that people could walk across the street and make more money because we were self-funded. We started Complete Legal with an investment of $15,000 total, and then everything else that we’ve done has been hand to mouth. We couldn’t pay the top talent what they deserved and so we had to build talent from people that were just good people that we wanted to invest in and we knew that to keep them, we had to make it a truly better place to work, not just say it’s a better place to work.
We started doing employee friendly things like the no vacation policy, the no sick time policy, because our industry requires you to work odd hours and sometimes you’ll work 30 hours straight and we don’t want people then feeling like they need to go to the office the next day or take a PTO day.
We want to treat people like adults and we want them to act like adults, and so growth is just another way of doing that. We’ve always invested in our employees. We’ve reimbursed people that want to go take classes to help them get better at this job or other things in life, we encourage people to– we have bookshelves where we share books that we read and I know you have your book clubs there at the bank and we all bring our books in.
Jason: Let me ask you guys the question about that. Do you consider listening to a book, reading a book? Jeff and Eric?
Sayard: Yes, I do. Yes, It counts.
Eric: Only way I’m getting through books.
Jason: You guys have really been above the curve here. You’ve been above the curve curve as far as like the world we live in now with flexibility in your work, obviously coming out of the COVID pandemic, but I feel like it’s almost like a necessity these days with Gen Z, I think that’s after millennials. I might be confused since I’m a Gen Xer.
Eric: Jeff and I were at dinner on Saturday. We actually had to look this up. We started, we were at a birthday dinner, so we got on that topic so yes, Gen Z.
Jason: Yes. You guys through doing this before and you mentioned you work with all different types of firms, but if you had to categorize it, small, medium, is it most of the part of your business or is it now also the larger as well?
Jeff: We started with small and graduated the medium and we’re certainly now working with larger law firms. It’s tricky with the services we provide because most of the larger law firms have departments in house that in theory, and in actuality in some cases, do what we do. The difference is, and I’ll say this, and I still haven’t anyone argue with me about it, is that most of our business is transactional. If we make a mistake that’s egregious enough, we can be fired and be out the next day.
If you have a big in-house department that does the same thing that we do and they make mistakes, you can’t fire that many people and replace them that quickly. So we have to earn it every single day. Our customers know that and our employees know that and it’s part of our culture is that we get days off, but the company can’t take days off. We got to be there for our customers because if we’re not, there’s a whole bunch of bigger, more well-funded companies standing right behind us to take the work.
Eric: That’s really comes down to the founding, our origin story, is that we looked around and said, look, there’s– at the time I think there were about 650 companies in our space and the majority of them were coming into Kansas City and just wanting to sell to four to six law firms, so you mentioned Shook, Polsinelli, Husch, Dentons, there’s some pretty big law firms in Kansas City, but there were hundreds and hundreds of companies that wanted their business and then really neglecting 80%, 85% of the legal community in Kansas City, and that was one to 50 lawyers at the time and that number has gone up a little bit at top end end.
That’s really our origin story, was let’s look at this customer base. These are the ones that are underserved, need support, need service. As Jeff said, we have definitely been working with larger law firms as we have grown, but large law firms also buy our services a little differently as he was describing. We really remain focused on that small to medium size, but at this point we can handle any size law firm because it really comes down to the no matter how big the law firm is, the legal team is the same size typically.
Jason: Very fascinating. Eric Kelting and Jeff Dreiling with Complete Legal, website is completelegal.us. You recently moved offices, is that right? You relocated from downtown Kansas City to Mission, Kansas. Why did you do that, and then we’ll get into the new space.
Jeff: Eric, do you want to start with this one?
Eric: Yes, I’ll take this one. Our lease was, we actually, we started the company in this really tiny little closet right outside of downtown and then we moved downtown and had like I think about a six year lease. I think we were about a year out. A lot of changes were happening with our building and the ownership of our building. As a tenant, it wasn’t terribly enjoyable to live through. We were trying to figure out what do we do? Do we keep our space? Do we downsize? Do we need more, whatever?
Actually, Jeff came to me and said, “I think we should buy a building.”
I’m like, “You are freaking crazy, dude. We have got so many problems, we’re trying to grow and scale a business,” but Jeff’s like, “No, I think it’s a good idea. I know some guys that have done it, it’s a really good investment.” Planted that seed, and so after I got over how crazy I thought he was, we really started digging into it.
Started talking to Jeff and Sayard at the bank and started looking at property and realized it’s actually– looking at the numbers, I tell folks all the time, moving out of downtown in six years of rent and parking, we would’ve paid for this building and the buildout.
You look at those types of economics, especially as a young business with– we’re a professional services company, we don’t have a lot of assets on our balance sheet, really have very little to nothing. You start looking at the economics of it and you’re like, “Oh my God, this is a no-brainer. Jeff, we should do this.” [laughter] That’s really how the seed got planted and how we went through it.
Jason: Tell us about the new space, Jeff. How new is it? I never got that in my notes, but how long have you guys been in Mission and what does it look like?
Jeff: Well, we’ve been in for just about a year right now, fully in the new office. What was really cool about it is that Eric didn’t take much credit there, but Eric found a building and figured out how to pay for the building and for the buildout. He did all the hard work and then I got to come in and play around with him during the buildout.
Luckily, we found a building that was low-priced for a good reason. It needed to be touched just about all of it, but the bones were great, the location was awesome. We got to go through and really create what we wanted. We started with culture first. A big portion of our office is devoted to co-working space and lounge area and communal areas where people can gather.
We put in the closest thing to a full kitchen that we could put in. We couldn’t put in an actual cooktop because that would’ve required a $50,000 grease trap because they thought we were going to try and sell food out of here, but we have an oven here so that we can share food and meals together.
Jason: Just what I think about when an eDiscovery legal company is going to sell food.
Jeff: Yes, exactly.
Eric: We break bread as a company quite a bit.
Jason: As entrepreneurs, permitting and how hard it is to do some of this stuff, it’s a passion of mine to try to change that with public policy, But if you have to pay 50,000 to have a kitchen, for an eDiscovery and legal services, professional services company, there’s a problem.
Jeff: Jason, I could tell you stories for hours. Eric’s tired of listening to them about the permitting process and why things got hung up and it just quite frankly, I know this isn’t what it’s about, but it was the only part of the process that wasn’t enjoyable. I understand there’s reasons that the regulations are there and the rules are there, and I appreciate them at times, but I think that common sense needs to come back a little bit in that process.
When people asked about how it went, and it must have been awful, and it was like, “No, our contractor was great. Our banking relationship was great. Our real estate transaction was great.” It was trying to get permits and understanding what we needed to do and not wasting money where we didn’t, that was really the only part of the process that was not enjoyable.
Jason: What is the address or what part of Mission is it in?
Jeff: We’re at 5909 Martway. Outside of my office window right over here, I can overlook the Mission Police Department so they’ve become good friends and neighbors of ours. We’ve got the Mission Public Pool just over off the back of our building. It’s a fantastic location. We’re one block off Johnson Drive.
We’ve got all the businesses and the small community feel that is there and the locally owned entrepreneurs all around us. The energy here is awesome. The options for our employees and for us to go and walk and get something to eat or walk to the hardware store, it’s awesome. We really love it here.
Jason: No, exactly where y’all are, I used to tape this radio show at Intercom before it was Odyssey over there by that Target, so I’ve definitely driven by your new office many times.
Sayard: What I would have to say about their building is he talked a lot about the lounge space and how they use that internally, but I think Eric mentioned this earlier that they do try to get that face time with their clients.
It’s a very transactional business, but try to build in that relationship where you have that great customer service and they know them and want to take care of them really well. They’re really great about hosting, networking, and learning events at their space and always generous with doing that.
Jason: That’s awesome. We’ll make sure to cater that in next time, though. Don’t want to cook anything there.
Jason: You guys are into social media, right? It’s important to you and how you get your brand out there and have a story to tell. Tell us about how you’ve done that and why it’s important to yo because I’m assuming, with your line of work, you have to be creative with social media.
Eric: You have to be careful when you said you guys are into social media because you’re talking to two guys that have a very small to no social media footprint personally but–
Jason: You probably see a lot of social media in eDiscovery. Jeez.
Eric: We do. We have to pull down a lot of social media posts. They can be very relevant to litigation. In the early years of growing the business, you’ve got so many things you need to do, and one of them was we needed an online presence.
We said, hey, if we, as we grow the company, add services, make big hires, we want to be able to scream that from the rooftop, but there needs to be someone to listen. We went to work on trying to create a social media presence as well as a good strong marketing database so we could actually notify our clients when good things were happening at Complete Legal.
Found an amazing partner, Christina Hergott, or goes by Stina, and Stina’s been a godsend. She is basically an extension of our organization and honestly, she really runs those channels. We feed her content and let her know the calendar of events and where we’re going to be and conferences we’ll be at and things like that.
She is a mastermind of social media and she even, if we can disclose, she runs our LinkedIn pages, our personal pages just to try and help in those efforts. Again, Jeff and I have both taken a lot of steps back off of social media over the last year or two personally. It’s been really important. It just gets the word out. It helps build our brand.
We’re not like Charlie Hustle, we don’t make t-shirts that people can hold and touch and wear. We’re a professional services company. To create a brand and to create marketing and create messaging, we have to use things like social media to do that.
Jeff: I would just add to that, that I think one thing that amazed me through the social media, and we’ve really embraced it early, and it was to, like Eric said, to be able to shout from the rooftops when good things happened. What happened in the process is we accidentally allowed our clients to go along the journey with us.
I don’t know if it was intentional or not at the beginning, it became intentional, but some of our biggest advocates and some of the kindest words of support that you really need when you’re starting a business came from our customers and they became almost cheerleaders for us.
That was the coolest thing that social media’s ever done at least in my lifetime for me, is that it allowed our customers to go along for the ride. When good things were happening, people knew it. Now it’s like my friends that I haven’t talked to in a few months, and I see them, sometimes they’ll be like, “Hey man, congratulations, I saw you hired so and so.” To me, that’s just the coolest.
Jason: I’m looking at both of your LinkedIn’s right now. They look great. [laughter] I think I need to hire someone that you’re working with. I remember the first class or whatever I went to when they brought up a Facebook page and we’re talking to lawyers about what you need to look for when you’re trying to find evidence and all that, and it just seems like so long ago.
Somebody posted a photo or commented on something, and how far we’ve come. [laughs] It’s just funny that like lawyers were having to– had never heard or seen anything about any of these platforms that you can do research on. Anyway–
Eric: Now we can tell you where you posted it and where you were at what time and what device you were holding or so–
Jason: Crazy. I want to talk to y’all about entrepreneurship. I know that it’s important to you. I know that you’re engaged in different organizations and you believe in resources for entrepreneurs and in working with entrepreneurs. Tell us about all of that and that experience and being a part of EO and whatnot.
Eric Kelting: Entrepreneurs’ Organization is a global organization. It’s an organization, and I think I wrote these down, we’re in 60-plus countries with about over 200 chapters and 15,000 members. We’ve got a large presence here in Kansas City or in the US and then a good presence here in Kansas City. EO, really it’s a group of business owners. It’s a group of peers.
The two qualifications, it’s a joint EO or that you’re a majority or equal share owner of at least 30% or more with at least a million-dollar business. The goal of that is to really put peers in a room together. So you’ve got all sorts of different sizes of companies and you’ve got all different types of companies and different industries and professional services or manufacturing and things like that. You strip all that stuff away and I’m sure Sayard can relate to this, having clients all over the metro and all over the region. You strip all those variables away. At the core of it, we have a lot of the same issues, same problems, and same concerns.
As entrepreneurs, we wear a lot of hats, we’re owners, we’re husbands and wives, we’re parents, stepparents, we’re ball coaches and PTA presidents, and we’re involved in different charities and all those things, and honestly it can be exhausting, and it can be stressful, and it can be tiring and especially the last couple of years have been obviously a unique experience and so the goal of EOs is just to get peers in a room together and be able to talk through those issues and then really share in one another’s experiences. One of the biggest caveats of EO is that you don’t dispense advice. You share your experience.
Jason, if you’re going through something with your company and you’re not sure what to do, the last thing you want is advice and the last thing you want to hear is, oh, this is what you should do, or here’s a book you should read, whatever, but if you’re going through something that I’ve gone through, maybe a problem or an obstacle, you’re going to be a lot more receptive to the message if I only share my experience in first person, like oh, I went through something similar, here’s what I did, here’s what I learned. Then you can take bits and pieces from all those different experiences shared from around the room and maybe develop your own solution to your issue at hand. It’s been great for our company. I actually, joined just before COVID hit, and so–
Jason: You’re the president now?
Eric: I’m the president of the Kansas State chapter. I was dumb enough to raise my hand.
Jason: Yes, from joining in 2020 to the president, in 2021. You’re a rocketship, Eric.
Eric: Yes. Not ideal, but the chapter is growing. We’re 40 members, we’ll probably be 50 plus this time next year, have amazing board of directors that have helped with a lot. We’ve got a chapter manager who’s amazing, who’s actually a part-time employee of the chapter named Loren, and honestly, she runs EO Kansas City. The rest of us just sit in the seat for a couple of years, but it’s been great.
Jeff’s been very receptive, I’ve stolen a lot of little ideas over the last couple of years about growth and development and different things that we’ve implemented here in Kansas City. He always humors me when I come out of an EO meeting or a forum meeting, and I’ve got some new idea or thing I want to implement here and he’s been amazing and very receptive to some of the learning that we’ve done. He’s actually been able to join us at a couple of events, and Sayard as well. The Landmark has become a partner of the KC chapter and so we really appreciate their involvement in helping us grow and develop.
Jason: That’s awesome. Jeff, I want to turn to you. Community engagement is important to your company, I know you’ve been engaged with Big Brothers, Big Sisters. I also was in the auction when it was a different name.
Eric: …having a single’s auction.
Jason: 2007, 2008 Cover Boy, you’re talking to him right now, [laughter] but you raised the most money the year you did it, and now you’re on the board. I know that’s important. You’re also on other volunteer boards and have helped a lot of different people. Why is community engagement important to you?
Jeff: I think that as a business of any size in Kansas City, there’s a responsibility in this market that you’re involved in and it’s real involvement. It’s not a community where if you write the check, people are, well, look at them as they want to see you out doing the work. I come from this community, so I come from that mindset as well. I will say really quickly, I did set the record in 2017 for the most money raised, but then in 2018, Eric beat my record, so I just wanted to make sure I wanted to go on the record with that.
Jason: You got to get your social media person putting that out, Eric.
Eric: Yes. My record’s now been beaten like two times over, and so it’s–
Jeff: Which is great.
Jason: We raised like $35,000 the year I did. I was the second year, so it’s come a long way.
Eric: It has.
Jeff: Yes, it’s up over a million dollars a year now. Isn’t that incredible, so it’s really important for us to be involved and then for us, we wanted to be involved where our dollars and our– we say, we talk about the three Ts, you have your time, you have your talent, you have your treasure, and some points in life, you’re in a position to give time, some points you’re in a position to give talent, sometimes you can give treasure, sometimes all three, whatever. But we wanted to make sure that when we gave one of our three Ts that we were giving back to an organization that made an impact here locally and it wasn’t just throwing it into the wind and hoping something happens, so Big Brothers, Big Sisters obviously fits that mold.
One-to-one mentorship is statistically proven and bore out to be the one thing that really can change the community. You can change, you can break a poverty cycle, you can break an abuse cycle just with consistent one-on-one mentorship and it’s amazing how it works. If you don’t know about Big Brothers, Big Sisters, and their mission, I would recommend anybody to get involved however you can. Also, everything’s fun. It’s an events-driven organization, so we go, we give some money, we give some time but we go enjoy great parties and meet awesome people.
We were at their golf tournament yesterday, it was an amazing day, a first-class organization. Big Brothers, Big Sisters is obviously near and dear to my heart and to Eric’s as well, but for us, community involvement is super important. Our employees, we have an arm of our business called Complete Legal Cares that is run by the employees. So when we give our time and our talent as a business, it’s because an employee has brought a charity to the forefront and said, “I believe in this. They need people, we can help.” Then a group of people gets together and we go support each other’s causes, and that’s a great way to really show that we care about each other.
Jason: That’s awesome. Wow. Well said on the importance of these organizations and also all of the work you all do with these two groups, very cool. I’d like to, we got about five to six minutes left. I want to talk about building a good business relationship. You guys have a good working relationship, it seems just from listening to you for 45 minutes so far. Why is that important to you? How did you build it, obviously, how do you keep it moving? Talk to us about building a good relationship.
Jeff: Well, I’ll tell you this, unfortunately, you were talking earlier about what are the types of cases we see, and we don’t talk about it all that often but we see business divorces, and those are the ones where people will spend stupid amounts of money just to win over ego. Business divorces are the only type of law that is more emotionally charged than an actual divorce, if you talk to attorneys that do both. Eric and I have made it a very important as at the forefront, is our relationship. I think it starts with the fact that Eric and I both respect each other and we respect our differences, but neither one of us is afraid to have conflict when necessary.
Eric will check me, and I will check Eric, and neither one of us likes it when it happens, but we don’t let things go. We deal with things, if not in the moment, in a reasonably short amount of time. To be honest with you, because we do that, our conflict, we have very little conflict because we know where each other stands. The fact that there is mutual respect and healthy communication means that we never stray too far from one another. Every once in a while, we get lazy and it happens, and we both realize it, and then we get closer, and it’s complicated. How about that? I guess the overarching answer is it’s complicated.
Jason: You balance each other out well, right?
Eric: Yes –
Jason: Sayard, you need to talk about this too because we want an outsider’s perspective on their business relationship here.
Sayard: No, I think it is exactly what you see here, is that they do counterbalance each other and understand one each other’s strengths and where they can step in that the other one isn’t as strong. I think we see a lot of business relationships, and I think you can definitely see that that foundation is really there that then they can work together and work through anything that comes up. At the end of the day, that foundation is built on those same values that they said that caring about the employees and each other as people first is probably where it starts.
Jason: Eric, you want to –
Eric: Oh, I was going to say we – no, these are all really good points and we had eight to nine years of working together and a relationship before we started the company. That obviously helped, but we put in some personality profiling solution about a year and a half ago to start to get an idea of our employees, what makes them tick, and then really as a hiring tool. When we’re looking to make a new hire, it’s taking some of that gut out and using some analytics and data.
We had to put ourselves through it and we went through training and I’ll never forget, we always knew we had complementary skill sets, but to see those personality graphs just literally inverse and lay over each other, then going through the training and from across the room listening to the trainer dissect Jeff. I’m like, Jeff, do you do this, and Jeff, do you do that, and I’m like, oh my God, he’s hardwired that way, he’s not being an asshole, it’s just who he is. It’s just science at that point. That I know undoubtedly, that helped a lot. It was just good to go through that process. You validate all the things that we’ve talked about as far as we’re very similar where it counts and then we’re literally polar opposites. I think that has helped our business relationship quite a bit, just because we come at problems very differently and have a very different perspective on issues and things at hand. I think it leads to very healthy debate and really great conversations. We close the door, we hash stuff out maybe in one meeting, maybe over weeks or months. When we’re all said and done, we’ve flushed it out, we’ve looked at it 360 degrees or we lock arms and go to war together.
Jason: Very well said. A few quickies here. Best personal and professional advice, you can just pick one of those. Let’s start with Jeff.
Jeff: I’d have to say the best personal and professional advice that I’m living off right now is you cannot expect that which you do not inspect.
Jason: Okay. It’s kind of a mouthful, Jeff. [chuckles]
Jeff: Yes. Right. It’s a tongue twister. I think that during COVID, managerial-wise, we’ve gotten away from a lot of things that were working for us and we’ve brought a lot of those back. What that is, is just putting ourselves more into day-to-day operation and inspecting what our employees are doing so they know that we care so that they’re delivering at a higher level. We have to inspect what we expect.
Jason: Nice. Eric, do you want to chime in real quick?
Eric: Yes. I might not be as eloquent as that. My mantra lately has just been keep things in perspective. I look around this screen, none of us are surgeons or are saving actual lives. At work or personal, we get worked up over things, a lot of things we can’t control. Just keeping things in perspective, whether that be an issue at school or an issue at the business or the kiddos or whatever it is, and it’s just, hey, like no one died today. Let’s just figure out a solution, keep moving. Just try and keep perspective and positivity.
Jason: That’s a good attitude. My final question is, if you were not working as a business owner, what would you be doing?
Jeff: I’m unemployable, so I would be working for myself somehow. [laughter] No, I would 100% be out in a shop building something, 100%.
Eric: Yes, I think I would be– I also agree, I’m probably unemployable at this point, but I think I would be pounding on the door of Nike to get into the sneaker industry. That’s really– [chukles]
Jason: That’s cool. You guys are entrepreneurial in more ways than you know. Did you ever consider becoming an attorney? No.
Jason: Neither of you.
Jeff: I used to always talk about wanting to become an attorney just so that– Because right now how it works, I do a lot of consulting and we charge by the hour. Every once in a while, we’ll get a case where we consult and we’ll open up some damages that weren’t previously there through what we did. Then a case will go from a million dollars to 15 million like that. I’m like, if I was an attorney, I could participate in this. I’ve always joked about it, but no, I don’t think either one of us gave it serious thought.
Jason: Nice. [crosstalk]
Eric: I think we’d both like to be trial–
Jason: –just made enough, right?
Jeff: Yes, that’s right.
Eric: I think we’d both like to be trial litigators. I think we could stand up and try and convince someone we’re right. That maybe our sales background or our passion, but no, I can barely read, so I wouldn’t have made it a day in law school. [laughter] Jeff can’t sit still for more than– This is the longest Jeff sat still ever, so I don’t think we would’ve done terribly well.
Jeff: A few more years in school, no.
Jason: When you guys– Apparently, Jeff was in a golf tournament yesterday with his charity, so he got out of the office at least one day, right, Jeff?
Jeff: Yes, my man was right there with me supporting it.
Jason: Oh, good.
Eric: Yes, I’m a little sun-beaten today, but it was worth it. A gorgeous day.
Jason: Good for you that you got in before the rain came.
Jason: Eric Kelting, Jeff Dreiling, the founders and co-founders of completelegal.us is the website, Complete Legal is the name of the business, awesome talking to y’all. Sayard Parrish from Landmark National Bank. Their website is banklandmark.com. Thanks for all the great advice, great insight, telling us more about Complete Legal. Man, I could talk to you guys for another hour. You definitely have been some really good guests who aren’t afraid to share their story and tell us the ups and downs. Heck, I didn’t even get into your…and I’m just excited that you came on the show today, to be honest.
Eric: It was interesting.
Jeff: It was awesome to be here, Jason. As I told you earlier, I’m a fan of the show, so it is a thrill for me to be on here and I really appreciate it.
Jason: Thank you, guys. Sayard, thank you to you and Landmark as well.
Sayard: Yes, thank you for having us.
Jason: Thanks to all the people who joined us and who will be listening to the podcast. We will share it throughout the week. We appreciate your time today. We’ll see you again soon. Take care, and have a great day.
Sayard: Bye now.
Jeff: Thank you, guys.
Eric: Thank you.
Jason: Thank you.
[00:55:24] [END OF AUDIO]